I heard of a poem which began like Phul Phutuk Na Phutuk Aaaj Bosonto from my classmate Madhubani Ghosh of UG I in Jadavpur University. Madhubani was discussing this poem written by Subhas Mukhopadhyay with another classmate of ours, who, I forget now. Intrigued and charged up romantically with the first few lines I searched for the poem far and wide. Since ours was not the age of the Internet with no poem hunter in sight, I had to generally ask around and look for the collection of poetry by the author. I did get a chance to hear the full version when a boy, or was it Tridibda who recited the poem for our Sanskriti. The lines sounded very familiar because I used to listen to Hindi poetry in the Vividh Bharati and though I forget the poet, I remember the lines which went like .. ek ladki, kaali kuti, aankh bhi phuti who bhi mast hai holi me. Subhasbabu’s poetry went on to laud the spring which in a city like Kolkata, defeated and demoralized nevertheless has a plant shooting out through the crevices of moss ridden broken walls and looks at the dark girl who, like many in her ilk can never hope to be married off. I thought that both the poem by Subhas Mukhopadhyay and its Hindi inspiration were anti-feminist and cruel.
I used to love spring; once. Then was a time when I was still to develop my breasts. I was a child and under pressure of my grandparents to always be well covered against any possible threat of “chill”. I was not allowed to sneeze even once for a freak sneeze could cost me my ice cream and more cardigans would be heaped upon me to the point of making my movements difficult. I would often fall down while jumping about unable to bend my knee covered with inners and clad in cotswool trousers and heavy shoes with thick socks. Windows of our home used to be shut tight and though these used to be glass panes, the fact that they shut out the air from the world outside suffocated me. Then came the spring and with “Dol” the windows would be wide open, fans would swirl again, and I would be relieved of my heavy gear. I would run free and then rush to the bathroom to relish the fact that the coconut oil in the transparent glass bottle had turned into a clear liquid again. Throughout the dusky and smoggy days of winter I would peep to see whether the white gelly of the coconut oil had melted or not and then when the oil would start to liquefy, it would be the breakout season for me.
Dol was fun for me as a child; in my infancy I played with my ten cousins at my mother’s place in New Alipore and the earliest memories of spring was about the fragrant colours, Dida’s sweet lassi, some luchi and aloor dom, or was it the plain torkaari with pnaach phoron? I forget now. But in my pre pubertal child hood, Dol shifted to Dover Lane where I had a blast with my paara friends, Chhoto Mithu and Rinkudi. We were a gang of girls and too young for boys to be interested in us, our Dol was a lot of shouting, lot of running, and lots of colours. But as I started growing up and Chhoto Mithu left Dover Lane, my Dol was over. I was afraid of my body, aware of its vulnerability, I bade good bye to spring and its colour festival.
In spring I still loved the breeze that would blow from the south, loved the way the windows were thrown open, the way the home was spring cleaned and fumigated. I loved the music played to celebrate spring over Vividh Bharati and learnt of the various ragas of the springtime. Spring was the best weather to focus on my studies, catch up with my revision and fortunately for me the half yearly examinations were just at the start of summer. I always did better in my half yearly than in my annuals because in the latter the windows would close and the smog would descend throwing a pall over the mood of the sunlight making the weather and my mind heavier. In spring I would have to give up my clothes cover and once again my body I sensed was open to be gazed at; spring would see me bend again in the chest, walk with a stoop despite admonitions to hold my posture straight. In winter I of course got back my heroic gait.
Now that I am in my middle age and live in Delhi, I hate spring. For spring is when the water crisis begins, spring is when the virulent dust storms blow covering your furniture and books with grit and soil. Spring is the prelude to long hours of power cuts, to the rush to get the chik fixed, air conditions serviced. It is the time of vicious mosquitoes leaving homes smelling of the putrid repellants. Besides I have no one to play Holi with. Holi is played not to eliminate social differences but to strengthen bonds of communities. It is not caste that Holi overcomes, it is the tribe that it bonds with. Holi is dangerous too for molesters and rioters are wholly advantaged in Holi.
Unlike in Kolkata Delhi knows no spring. In a land of evergreen flora, spring is the fall in this country. The new leaves, the green stems, the germination of new shoots is typically deciduous and hence Bengal. There is a dry season in Bengal when the fields and grounds look bare and in spring there is breakout of new life. Delhi is evergreen, it only knows of dry leaves, the burnt smell when these are burnt in the open. Spring in Delhi is the month of the income tax, of the budget which never seems to help me. Spring in Delhi is the season of despair, of gloom and pessimism of the impending scorching summer.
I still love some things of spring in Kolkata though; the sale of Chaitra for some reason excites me and the bright yellow of the costumes of the “sanyasis” who beg for alms with the sing song hoarse choroker seba laagi …mahade….b. don’t know why this festival endears me so much but for me these two are spring. When I return to Kolkata, I wont return to Dol I know but definitely to the excitement of life that late spring, or the Chaitra brings with it. After that I will wait for the kaal boishaki with its hail stones, I will wait for 25 shey Boishak, aamer tok, kolai daal, musuri daaler bora and paanta bhaath. Must get my father to make that paanta bhaath again.
Spring cannot deprive me with its efflorescence because of the state of my maidenhood; I banish spring with all its flowers and germinating greens.